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IT Service Catalog - Know Your Audience

By Rodrigo Fernando Flores Industry experts agree that the Service Catalog is the first step, and a fundamental requirement, in the shift to a more service-based, demand-driven approach to IT.
Nov 27, 2005

ITSM Watch Staff

By Rodrigo Fernando Flores

The ITIL framework recommends the development of a Service Catalog as a necessary step in the Service Level Management process. The recent ITIL Business Perspective publication reinforces the need to use a Service Catalog as the focal point for interactions between IT and the business. Industry experts agree that the Service Catalog is the first step, and a fundamental requirement, in the shift to a more service-based, demand-driven approach to IT.

There are more and more IT Managers wanting to produce a Service Catalog and a word of wisdom, One-size does NOT fit all. The requirements and content are likely to be quite different, depending upon the primary audience that will use the Service Catalog.

Users versus Customers
The most important requirement for any Service Catalog is that it should be business-oriented, with services articulated in business terms. In following this principle, the Service Catalog can provide a vehicle for communicating and marketing IT services to both business decision-makers and end users.

The ITIL framework distinguishes between these groups as "customers" (the business executives who fund the IT budget) and "users" (the consumers of day-to-day IT service deliverables). The satisfaction of both customers and users is equally important, yet it's important to recognize that these are two very distinct and different audiences.

To be successful, the IT Service Catalog must be focused on addressing the unique requirements for each of these business segments. Depending on the audience, they will require a very different view into the Service Catalog. IT organizations should consider a two-pronged approach to creating an actionable Service Catalog:

  • The executive-level, service portfolio view of the Service Catalog used by business unit executives to understand how IT's portfolio of service offerings map to business unit needs. This is referred to in this article as the "service portfolio."
  • The employee-centric, request-oriented view of the Service Catalog that is used by end users (and even other IT staff members) to browse for the services required and submit requests for IT services. For the purposes of this article, this view is referred to as a "service request catalog."
The Business Executive View
Business executives need to gain visibility into the value delivered by IT infrastructure and operations. According to a recent Gartner and IBM survey of 456 senior business executives, only 17% of finance executives agreed with the statement "Our investments in IT are delivering business value."

As the economic buyer of IT services, these executives look for a portfolio view of the service offerings provided by IT at the budget planning level. They demand greater transparency and they expect the service portfolio to help them answer questions like, "What does IT do? Why does IT cost so much? Is IT doing a good job?"

An executive-level service portfolio should describe the broad categories of service offerings, with service tier options and cost elements. Examples of services represented in a service portfolio may include application hosting for an ERP system; or email with gold, silver, and bronze service level options. Taking the portfolio a step further, services can be represented in the context of how IT supports business processes, such as the infrastructure to operate a kiosk at a retail location, or the IT deliverables that enable the order-to-cash process.

Once this portfolio of services has been defined, business decision-makers can browse the service offerings and drill into the associated agreements, service components, and financial information. With a business-oriented view of available services, including key cost and quality metrics, they have greater visibility into the business value of IT. IT relationship managers and service level managers can create a tailored portfolio of service offerings, establish agreements, set pricing and objectives, monitor performance, forecast demand, and track service consumption for each business unit customer.

The End User View
End users want improved service quality and reliability. What's critical is that the day-to-day IT services they need to perform their jobs are easily accessible, delivered consistently, and of high quality. Yet a TNS National Omnibus Survey found that 43 percent of employees are dissatisfied with the responsiveness of IT service delivery. A common complaint from the end user audience is "Why is IT so difficult to work with? Why does it take IT so long to fulfill a simple request?"

End users need an actionable and easy-to-use service request catalog that describes the products and services they are entitled to order or request from IT. Items in this view of the Service Catalog typically include orderable services where the user initiates a service request that results in a series of delivery activities. Examples of orderable services include the traditional IMAC (install, move, add, change) services required to provision a new PC, upgrade an email account, or provide access to an application.

Other examples in the service request catalog include more advanced IT services, such as application enhancement requests, or even IT-to-IT requests like setting up a new server to host an application. As the central intake point for all IT demand, users will expect to submit "break/fix" incidents through the service request catalog; this view of the catalog may also provide FAQs and other information-only content readily accessible to end users.

The user view of the Service Catalog offers a way to standardize service deliverables, establish service level expectations, and market services to end users. The user can quickly browse or search for available services in the catalog, submit a request, and monitor delivery status - making it as easy for employees to find and order IT services as it is for consumers to order a book on Amazon.com.

Individually, both the end user and executive view of the Service Catalog can help to improve internal customer satisfaction and re-establish trust between IT and the business. When adopted as part of a complete IT Service Portfolio Management solution, IT organizations find they are able to quickly transform the IT-business relationship.

There are multiple paths to realizing the benefit of a Service Catalog, whether starting with the portfolio of services for business executives or publishing the service request catalog for end users. IT organizations should begin by focusing initially on the view that addresses the most pressing challenges in their interactions with the business. Either way, get started today; every moment delayed is time wasted and opportunity lost.

In my next article, I will cover how to ensure that your Service Catalog is adopted and used by the business. Stay tuned for more on the IT Service Catalog.

Rodrigo Fernando Flores is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of newScale, with more than 20 years experience in software development and IT management. He is a member of the IT Service Management Forum, and has advised several leading Fortune 500 companies in their ITIL and Service Catalog initiatives.